Vince Gilligan and company keep adding fuel-soaked logs to the fire on this season, but have yet to really light the match. This episode, like the others that preceded, spent the majority of its running time setting things up for what is likely to be a grand, explosive payoff. Now, this is by no means a bad thing, as a weaker episode of Breaking Bad tends to surpass even the best episodes of most other shows, but there was just something off about this episode.
The episode starts off with Walt racing frantically through the streets to Los Pollos Hermanos, where he plans to confront Gus about Jesse’s disappearance. While waiting in the restaurant, he receives a call from Mike that is none too comforting: Mike pledges that he will leave Jesse unharmed, yet alludes to no clues as to what they are doing. This is no good for Walt who, despite his dry and withered attitude towards Jesse, does in fact care for the boy. He storms into the back room of the restaurant, gun in pocket, but Gus is nowhere to be seen.
Meanwhile, Jesse is riding shotgun with Mike and they are heading “North”, as Jesse so articulately put it. Jesse is still inoculated to the world, immune to its pressures, empty without the reassurance that Walt and his ex-girlfriend Jane used to give him. He is a ticking time bomb, and Mike and Gus know this. They have a plan at bay, and it lends this episode its most interesting, albeit flawed premise: What would Jesse do if he were to be reinvigorated, or better yet, repurposed?
Jesse is initially led to believe that he is accompanying Mike as he makes scheduled money pick ups throughout the desert (which they in fact do). However, unbeknownst to Jesse, Gus has staged a “robbery” of sorts as Mike is making one of his pick ups. While Jesse waits alone in the car, he observes a man approaching the vehicle with shotgun and acts post haste: He depresses the gas, nearly runs the man over, crashes into a nearby vehicle, and speeds off into the dusty night. Mike is initially led to believe that Jesse disappeared, but low and behold, he rounds a corner to find Jesse waiting for him. It’s only later that we learn that Gus has had this ruse planned from the get go, and that the plan “quote-unquote” worked successfully.
Now, while I am all for getting Jesse out of his current funk, I’m not sure this was the way to go. Gus is a brilliant businessman and clearly knows how to take advantage of the human psyche, but how was he to know that Jesse would react this way? What if Jesse didn’t notice the man with the shotgun? What if he ran the man over, killing him in the process? What if the car accident injured Jesse severely?
These are radical outcomes, mind you, but just as probable as what actually transpired onscreen. I felt it was somewhat of an easy out for Jesse, or should I say the writers? It just didn’t have the organic feel that is so beautifully characteristic of the show, and I was somewhat let down by it. However, I cannot imagine that it will negatively impact the overall arc of the show.
Back at home, Walt and Skyler are back into their groove. They end up having sex after Skyler listens to a message Walt left earlier that day professing love (message that he left while scrambling to find Jesse, mind you). While laying and cuddling post-coitus, Skyler insists that Walt move back home. His alarm on his watch beeps and off to the lab he goes, planting only a small kiss on Skyler’s lips.
No matter, as Walt Jr. later tells Walt that he cannot wait for him to move in next week. I love how consistent a character Skyler is, as it seems things are back to the way they used to be (of sorts), it doesn’t really matter what Walt says. If she want him to move back in, then by god, he will.
At the lab, Walt is struggling to complete the job on his own and refuses to work without Jesse. Gus’s henchman (the nameless, faceless dopelganger that replaced Victor) does help him, but Walt is dissatisfied. He adheres to a code of conduct, and without Jesse around, his flow has been misaligned.
The show rounded out with a brilliant dinner scene at Hank’s house. As a matter of fact, it very well could have been one of the seasons strongest moments as Walt’s wounded pride gets the best of him yet again. Upon hearing that Hank has, for lack of a better word, moved on from the “Heisenberg Case”, Walt asks why.
Hank believes that Gale was their man, and that he died on the fateful evening that closed season 3. To Skyler’s subdued dismay, Walt drunkenly stammers about Gale’s amateurish, student-like notes. He continues his rant, stating that he admires whatever “Heisenberg” has done and that it is likely that the culprit is still on the lose.
Sure, Walt was pretty drunk, but why would he go out of his way to repurpose Hank? Was he trying to incriminate himself? Is his pride so wounded at this point that he must consistently reassure himself of his worth, potentially at the expense of himself? I personally believe that, for the first time in his life, he feels like he actually has a worthwhile purpose. Where he initially led this lifestyle to support his family, it almost seems like he is now doing it to support his own self-view. This gets Hank to re-open the case, and also sends us off with a nice little cliffhanger to whet our appetite for next week.
This was by no means a weak episode of Breaking Bad, it just wasn’t as strong as some of the others. It had its moments and like I said, the final scene was excellent. Aside from that though, it just felt like a step backwards, especially with the whole Jesse subplot. Here’s hoping that things pick back up next week as I am generally enjoying this season. Things look like they’re leading up to an explosive finale and I’m excited to see how we progress from here.
What did you think of the episode?